Hello there! how’s life?
My name is Romain.
I am the chief editor of the almighty Terminal Sound Nuisance blog, and I am about to undertake, before your very eyes, an arduous enterprise: writing a scene report about the French DIY punk scene.
Yes! It is a rather colossal endeavour, and a fairly unlikely one.
How very 2002, right?
But anyway… let’s dive right into it
The French DIY Punk Scene (Introduction)
Despite not being exactly the most fashionable part of the world for punk music, France has dozens of good, solid bands, hundreds of half-decent ones, and an astronomical number of excruciatingly bad ones that you are better off not knowing.
Joking aside, in Western Europe, despite there being more than sixty millions of us, France was never neither the most prolific nor the most illustrious country in terms of punk-rock.
Even a superficial glance at neighboring Italy, Spain, England or Germany points to this fact, and therefore, a self-deprecating inferiority complex is not rare to come by among the French punk crowd.
Although one has to be careful about generalizations, I suppose that, historically, you could identify three major stylistic tropes in the 1980s that would go on to categorize “the French punk sound”.
The first one was the most successful in terms of popularity. It was epitomized by Les Béruriers Noirs, a minimalistic punk band with a drum machine, revolutionary lyrics and a circus imagery. Needless to say that Les Bérus have had a tremendous impact in France and have influenced literally thousands of young punks over the years, which accounts for the very high number of punk bands with a drum machine in the country (there is to my knowledge no equivalent anywhere else in the world).
The second genre that characterized the French punk sound in the 80’s was the so-called Chaos en France scene, after the name of the two infamous compilations of the same name which included Oi-tinged rough punk bands from all over the country.
More often than not, lyrics were humorous, saucy and pretty distasteful (an accurate reflection of the French sense of humour some would say), and apart from a few exceptions like Camera Silens, Kidnap, or Sherwood, I have very little time for this type of punk.
Funnily enough, since the rise of the internet age these French Oi! bands have become famous and sought-after abroad, particularly in the hippest quarters of “da scene”, which never ceases to amaze me since I have been trying to run away from this dross all my life.
Finally, you also had a brand of tuneful punk-rock with a strong rock’n’roll vibe with major bands like Les Rats, OTH, or Les Sheriffs, among many others. It goes without saying that I am being schematic here and that things were more porous than they looked but keeping these broad categories in mind will help you picture the background and the roots of the issue at stake. There were obviously also a few hardcore or anarcho- bands but they were a minority as France never had its own “1980s hardcore explosion”.
But enough history, that is not the topic of today’s lecture, so let’s get back to the present!
Of course, it would be impossible to mention every active punk bands in the country in 2019, and it would make for a strenuous read. The choices and the perspective will therefore be totally subjective, and although I will do my best to provide an accurate and comprehensive enough picture of the French punk land- and soundscape, in the end I picked bands that appeal to me.
The focal point will be on bands that are active. I will mention labels, distros and venues when relevant. There are obviously many more things to punk-rock than just gigs and records (political activism, fanzines, artists of all kinds…) but for matters of time and space, I will keep mainly to bands since, after all, they still are the banners of the scene.
Let’s start with Paris (and its suburbs). For France, being a highly centralized country, it is no surprise that a lot of people despise the arrogance and self-centredness of Parisians, and for good reasons I’d say.
The capital is fairly small, very expensive, overcrowded and overall an exhausting place to live in, with no decent punk venues to speak of at the time of writing. But despite the relative smallness of the Parisian scene (compared to other European capitals), there are a lot of diverse bands and gigs happening, and if you’re open-minded and dedicated enough it is hard to get bored.
It makes sense to mention La Fraction first since they have been the most iconic Parisian punk band for a long time now (they formed in 1992).
If you are a sad bastard who have never listened to La Fraction, they play tuneful and passionate punk-rock with a female vocalist like no other. They have political, poetical lyrics, and they are in the process of recording their fourth album!
The vocalist Magali has also recently started to sing and play the guitar in a band called Swimmin’ Poor, which turns poems into punk songs.
Constant touring, a solid discography and an unquenchable enthusiasm have made Youth Avoiders possibly the most active and beloved Parisian band at home and abroad.
Playing tuneful, super catchy, energetic and fast US hardcore for about ten years, they are certainly one of our best exports. As if the boys were not busy enough with YA, two of them formed Stalled Minds a few years ago. The mood is different, more garage punk-oriented but the tunes and the energy are still there.
And while I am at it, let’s throw in the name Coke Asian, a new band who have just released a demo tape and sound like a raw, mean garage version of 1980s Italian hardcore bands, though it’s probably unintentional.
Speaking of Parisian fast hardcore bands, it is worth noting that Unlogistic are still playing, now as a two-piece with a drum machine. They have been more or less active since 1996 and have a solid discography behind their backs. If you like your hardcore completely manic yet melodic at the same time, it’ll be your cuppa.
One member of Unlogistic now sings in Retsar Baï Naïm, an intense fastcore act that’s been going since 2013 and also includes former members of Les Louise Mitchells and Bile Clinton.
Riposte are possibly what Paris has ever had the best to offer in terms of ruthless powerviolence with brutal female vocals. They have been playing for some years now but some members live in Marseille and Saint-Etienne.
Other fast bands worth checking are: Bain de Sang, a recent hardcore/powerviolence act with already one record under their belt; Mon Autre Groupe, a fast female-fronted hardcore punk band with members of Guerilla Poubelle that has been around for 10 years; Pendrak, an all-out grinding crust violence band with a former member of Faxe (they recorded a full LP last year).
Black Scoumoune, who play an unlikely blend of surf music and crust punk; Brüte, an all-out hardcore punk band with no frills and Ansiax (on the featured image), a new d-beat crust band with former and current members of Sinnaciön, Czosnek and Barren? who should record a demo soon.
Speaking of new hardcore bands in Paris, members of Crippled Old Farts and Emma Pils just started Jamais Quitte (with an old-school US vibe), new trendy hardcore band Issue released a full LP just on time for their second gig ever (!), Surge is a new hardcore band with a noisy melodic vibe (people from Henchman and Memories).
Members of Rats Blood, Krigskade, Aguirre and Barren? recently formed a new Totalitär-ish hardcore band with lyrics in French called Turquoise.
Paris is not deprived of more tune-oriented band punk or, indeed, post-punk bands either.
On that shelf, I strongly recommend Trashley, a self-proclaimed dance-punk three-piece that’s been going since 2011 with their very own sound (somewhere between Le Tigre and Cross Stitched Eyes, or something) and have just released their classy and colourful first LP.
Jessica 93 has become pretty famous now and will delight you if you are into gloomy and grungy new wave. All This Mess are another Parisian band with a brand new album in its hands. They play fast, female-fronted goth punk-rock with a UK styling.
If you are more into the 1990s American sound, Bitpart will delight you, a three-piece indie-punk band with male/female vocals and a genuine vibe that’s been going for a while now, and also give Henchman a go, they play hardcore-y noise rock and had their first LP out last year.
Also worth mentioning are Union Jack, a hard-working melodic punk band with some ska that’s been going for 20 years. Also Harassment, a band blending old-school hardcore with surf music. And if your thing is the classic UK sound, then give Barren? a listen, as they play classic UK anarcho-peacepunk, already have a demo and should release something soon with a new lineup, while Plomb, with their vintage Crisis-meets-Flux synth post-punk sound, released a strong first LP last year.
You cannot go out without your studded jacket and craftily done charged hair?
I’ve got the thing for you. Breakout are the prime French streetpunk band (admittedly more and more with a 1990s hardcore sound), they have been touring extensively for the past seven years and are tight as fuck, though they seem to be on a hiatus right now.
A city located in the suburbs in the North West of Paris, Mantes-la-Jolie, has produced in recent years two direct, hard-hitting, fast pogo-punk bands that are good at what they do: Humandogfood (who themselves emerged from the ashes of Disgusted and have a couple of records out) and Stateless (who released an EP in 2017).
I might as well mention that Paris has had a thriving Oi! scene for a while now and bands like Bromure (with a sax), Outreau (with an Oxblood influence), Cran (female-fronted cold oi), and, of course, the notorious Rixe (retro oi) are worth checking out if you still own braces in 2019.
Finally, there is also a more openly militant, libertarian punk scene and there have been quite a few bands in that style in Paris.
Worth noting in the “still active” department are Cartouche, a tuneful punk-rock band with strong female vocals formed in 2005 after the demise of Kochise (some members live in the South of France now), Tulamort, who play streetpunk with a hardcore touch and have been going since 2006. Julie Colère, who mix punk-rock with traditional French chanson, and Pour X Raisons, a more recent band that is hard to characterize as they interestingly blend post-punk with chanson-française and noise-rock.
And just a quick word to mention two dedicated record labels and distros located in Paris. Guerilla Asso has been going strong since 2003, General Strike has been going since 2007, has released numerous political punk-rock/ska records and run a distro and is also an active gig organizer.
Ruido Total has been created by Sinnaciön‘s drummer (they were an all-Colombian raw punk band that disbanded a few years ago) around 2010 and focuses on releasing new records from Latino punk bands from all over the world, as well as reissuing some classic Colombian bands of yore.
The very active hardcore label Destructure Records is now located in Paris as the fellow running it recently moved to the capital with the stock (and the distro). Check the latest quality releases if you want to know what’s up with the hardcore kids these days.
As for venues in Paris, things are not what they used to be but we’re lucky enough to have Le Cirque Electrique, an eclectic space that hosts alternative music as well as performances and circus acts (and there’s a bar as well!). There is also a radio show in Paris, called Détruire l’Ennui, that has been going since 2005 on Radio Libertaire and focuses on international DIY hardcore punk.
And we are now moving to Lille, in the North of France, a typical industrial region. Its epicenter is a very active punk town with dedicated people that has been bubbling with quality punk bands for the past decade
Let’s start with Short Days. This power trio has been going since 2012 and play highly catchy and tuneful US-flavoured punk, and also their recent album is ace! Their bass player runs the label Build Me a Bomb, which is a good starting point if you want to give a listen to what punk Lille has been up to in the past ten years.
Although not officially an active band, Traitre have been doing a couple of gigs lately for the release of their discography on vinyl. I suppose you could say they are the crucial Lille punk band of the decade with a rather unique Oi-tinged punk-rock sound and grim, radical political lyrics. Solid stuff.
In the same vein as Traitre (and with members in common), Kronstadt and their brand new first LP come highly recommended as well. Oi-punk with tunes and rabid melancholy.
If you are not so tune-inclined yourself, you will also be treated well in Lille with pissed off hardcore bands like the rough and boisterous Années Zéro (former and current members of Short Days, Kronstadt and Sévices with their first EP out), the even faster and relentless Hook and the old-school crossover hc sound of Bagarre.
Keeping with the hardcore sound we all love, Gutter are another recent ace Lille band that plays a dark blend of the 1980s UK sound and US hardcore with gruff vocals. They’ve released an LP last year, check it out.
On a lighter note, Jodie Faster (we just love silly puns in France and this sad cultural tradition has transpired in punk monikers for the forty years), who play superfast and short hardcore songs with humorous lyrics and they released a split LP with Genital Jiggling from Rouen last year.
Let’s not forget the long-running (since 2002) anarcho-punk band La Société Elle a Mauvaise Haleine (meaning “Society’s got a breath problem”… don’t ask) who play fast male/female punk with a drum machine and do it well, and anarcho folk-punk finest Les Fossoyeurs Septik.
I am not so well-informed about the punk scene around the Lille area but if you love the mighty D, then Diseuros should be right up your alley. Their first demo of scando raw hardcore with a UK touch is pretty lovely indeed. And as for venues, I am not completely up to date with new squats in Lille but the Centre Culturel Libertaire (usually known as the CCL) still hosts a lot of punk shows.
Rouen / Normandy
I suggest we go West now in as epic a fashion as that lovely disco song that has inspired countless ace dance moves.
Let’s stop in Rouen, in Normandy, where Uraken play nasty hardcore/powerviolence, Sordide unleash adequately evil old-school punky black metal, and the delicately named Genital Jiggling excel at delivering snotty fastcore.
The latter have a recent split with Lille’s Jodie Faster while the former recorded an EP in 2017. Also worth mentioning is the label Emergence that has been going since 1999 (the distro has been active since 1996) and has released a lot of fast French hardcore stuff throughout the years. Do check it out!
Elsewhere in Normandy, Nine Eleven are torn between Le Mans and Caen and, with ex members of Amanda Woodward, Aussitôt Mort and No Time To Lose, deliver heavy and moody crusty post-hardcore.
I don’t think this Caen-based band is still active but while we are at it, do give a listen to Exhaustion‘s last LP from 2017, check it out if you are into epic and political modern hardcore crust. It is a wicked record.
And now let’s tackle a large area that is packed with punk bands, DIY collectives, ace venues and whose countryside has become a haven for former punk city dwellers: Brittany.
The proverbial joke is that this North-Western region of France is the rainiest, which is actually true though it is always best to pretend otherwise so that no one gets too offended. Brittany has a strong cultural identity and even its own language which has been revitalized in recent times.
Let’s start with Rennes, its largest town. It is home to a vast array of different punk styles but here is a selection of what’s down with the kids these days.
Demain (formerly known as Death or Glory) play political punk-rock that reminds me of the 1980s UK mod-punk revival which is not a bad thing (tunes to be expected on their three records); Neds believe in catchy indie-punk with a ’77 twist (their first EP is only a few months old).
Meanwhile, Cave Ne Cadas are into much heavier things as their solid 2016 stoner crust LP can attest and let’s not forget Coin Locker Babies, in the Rennes area, who play straight up punk-rock with strong female vocals. Constante is a promising new post-hardcore/screamo band.
The biggest label in Brittany (and one of the major punk labels in France actually) is Mass Productions, active since 1996, who has released tons of records, not all of the best taste, but there are some solid ones in the lot. Subversive Ways is an anarcho/crust label from the area run by a member of Cave Ne Cadas which comes recommended if you enjoy your punk with politics and growls.
La Rouill’ is a tiny communal village located between Rennes and Angers aging punks are active putting on gigs, playing in bands and doing all sorts of nice political and artistic shit as well.
It is home to the mighty Grossecharge, a spoof d-beat band that has been kicking decency’s ass in one way or another since 2006 (and they just recorded a demo!), whose guitar hero also plays in Ersatz, a monstrous cavemen crust band that just released an ace split tape with Usa la Tua Rabbia. As for other bands in the commune, check the long-running Pizzza and their demented freaky hip-hop sound, and A Moitié Vide is a tongue-in-cheek oi-punk band. The label I Feel Good (whose boss plays in the savage D-bands mentioned above) is also based there and has been promoting grindy, crusty hardcore noise for the past 15 years.
Brest is a port city located on the western edge of France and with its major naval industry, it was bombed heavily during WWII. It has the reputation of being a grey, grim working-class town and as such it is an ideal breeding ground for quality punk bands.
Let’s start with two of the hottest bands of the country right now: Litovsk and Syndrome 81.
Litovsk have just released their second LP and play moody, angry, UK-inspired anarcho-post-punk (a bit like a jam between Blitz, Vex and Chameleons or something) with lyrics in English, Dutch and now even French. Classy stuff.
Syndrome 81 share a guitar player with Litovsk but are decidedly more Oi-oriented, with a bleak, urban, anthemic touch (Camera Silens and The Underdogs are not far off) and a consistent discography.
The singer of S81 also shouts in Marée Noire, a pummeling and heavy d-beat hardcore band along with members of Better Off Dead and Bleakness that did a great EP recently.
Also in the “street” department (and with some member of Syndrome), Coupe Gorge opt for a beefier oi/hardcore sound which their 2018 album conveys pretty well. And if you think that’s enough Oi! for just one town, think again, since a new band called Secteur Pavé just unleashed their first recording. Expect some adequately grim Oi! with a classic sound and members of Litovsk.
Although spread around Brittany, Usa La Tua Rabbia‘s singer lives in Brest so let’s stick that one here. These current and former members of Bakounine and Sinnacion play sharp, short and fast grinding hardcore and they just did a split with bloody Agathocles, and if you want more crushing hardcore, ULTR‘s singer and guitar player also have a new crasher d-beat band going called Kiäl.
Also, at least partly, from “Brest la grise” is a new band who released a demo, Deseo Morir. Remember the early to mid 2000s, when everyone was infusing crust with emo? Well, that’s the spirit, think Kakistocracy meet Ekkaia. Unexpectedly fresh.
Last but certainly not least, HHM an energetic grungy punk grrrlz trio since the early 00’s are still playing and rocking and that’s good indeed.
Vannes / Lorient / Concarneau
Meanwhile, in the more picturesque city of Vannes you will find a couple of decent active bands if you’re looking to tour in Brittany (and why not if you carry an umbrella with you at all times).
Dagger Kids remind me of late 90s/early 00s European fastcore, while Crust In Boutin (there is one intense pun in that name) are a snotty hardcore punk act. Murder One is a reformed old-school thrash/grind act, and people involved in the first two bands have a gig collective called By the Kids for the Kids, which aims at putting their town on the punk map. That’s definitely the spirit.
Lorient is another port city with some active bands as well, like Mauvaise Graine and their direct female-fronted punk-rock, Sordid/Ship, a surf-punk act that will make you want to seal (I guess) and Cuir, a rocking garage-punk band with great tunes.
In Concarneau, a bit to the north, The Wanted are still playing after 15 years and last time I heard they were in blackened crust mode. Check them out.
To wrap it up band-wise, let’s mention some bands residing in the region of Les Mont d’Arrées who used to practice at some point at Pen Kalet, a collective political space that’s been going for a long time.
The mighty Bakounine have been playing eurocrust since 2007 so if you’re into Hiatus (and why wouldn’t you be?) get their latest split LP’s since it was recorded with their newest member on vocals (who also sings for Litovsk).
Though recently disbanded and with two members of Bakounine, were Ostavka, a top goth-punk band with powerful female vocals. Their last record was an EP released last year and it is wicked.
There is a top-notch record label located in the area as well, Symphony of Destruction, that focuses on releasing quality punk music in all its shapes, be it nasty crust, eerie post-punk, anthemic punk-rock, noise-punk, d-beat, you name it. The people running it also have a tasteful distro that I strongly recommend.
Not so far from there (I think), a recent move has seen the excellent label and distro Et Mon Cul c’est du Tofu? (managed by the bloke behind Besoin Dead and former bass player in La Fraction) who relocated from Paris to Brittany’s countryside. This label is specialized in versatile experimental/freaky/weird free punk music (among other things), so if that’s your thing, it is the perfect place to start.
Finally, Senseless Acts of Anger is a small anarcho-punk label releasing politically-motivated and rather diverse punk bands.
Angers is a town located in the West of France, at the South of Britanny (kinda) that has always had a lively punk scene revolving around their ace independent social center L’Etincelle where gigs and political activities take place.
In terms of bands, you should check out the great Better Off Dead and their female-fronted tuneful and passionate punk-rock (with members of Michel Platinium and Marée Noire among many others), Tu Brüles Mon Esprit and their unlikely kraut punk cover band (which sits between Angers and Le Mans and includes two members of Better Off Dead) and Taenia, a cold synth-punk duo.
Tours is another sweet town punk-wise, East of Angers, that host a few bands that are worthy of note: LØVVE do the powerviolence thing, and they do it with ferocity and acuteness; Ed Warner are more of a modern hardcore band with crusty bits (members of DFI and Verbal Razors among others); Verbal Razors is a bandana-loving crossover thrash punk band and Pulmonary Fibrosis is a 20 year-old old-school goregrind band (assuming that’s your thing).
But Tours is not all speed and aggression as you can also find Cookies, an upbeat Ramones-like pop punk band (with members of Bitpart so it’s also a Paris band), and Sueurs Froides, an equally tuneful garage punk band.
Now let’s got to Nantes. Some people claim that Nantes is part of Britanny, while others absolutely deny it. I don’t really care but if you ever bump into a French person, it can be a touchy subject so be careful.
Circles is a melodic hardcore outfit with a passion for Dag Nasty and Fugazi done by old-timers. Nantes is a city with tunes as The Headliners, a punky mod revival band with a British vibe, tuneful pop-punk band Heavy Heart, and, of course, Chaviré, a top-notch political and intense emo-punk band, can attest. Members of Chaviré also play in Dédale, who released a demo in 2017.
If you like harder stuff, you can listen to Harm Done (tough metallic powerviolence hardcore), and Tina Turner Fraiseur (grinding hardcore whirlwind… don’t ask about the name). Alexis, Harm Done’s singer, was also running the straight edge hardcore label/distro/blog Straight & Alert from 2009 to 2018.
Let’s keep to the Atlantic coast but the Southern part of it with a major French punk town: Bordeaux.
Renowned for the quality (some say the nerdiness) of its bands, Bordeaux was the birthplace of Gasmask Terrör, a major hardcore band, though sadly disbanded, that was probably what the country had the best to offer for a good few years.
Of course, the members are all still active in solid bands and there is good stuff all around in that corner, so here is what Bordeaux has to show right now. Bombardement unsurprisingly do the Swedish d-beat thing with female vocals while Sexplosion go down the Japanese metal punk road with makeup, it’s a bit like GISM meet Streets of Rage (people currently or formerly involved in Gasmask Terror, Monarch, Fosse Commune and Warning//Warning in these two).
If you enjoy Disaster and Disclose, you should check Fosse Commune, ace d-beat orthodoxes with evil female vocals and members of Honda Honda and Sexplosion, and if you are more into tuneful punk-rock with DIRT-like vocals, then Fraude will be your thing.
And Bordeaux has even more hardcore bands to offer actually: Shock (members of Gasmask Terror and Fraude) playing beefy US-flavoured charged hardcore punk; Hondartzako Hondakinak (aka Honda Honda) who deliver amazing raw punk with lyrics in Basque reminiscent of old Spanish hardcore bands; Naatlo Sutila and their noisy hardcore punk (members of Fosse Commune and Born Sorry); powerviolence fanatics Ghettö (former members of Chien); gruff grinding d-beat Disklür (member of Chien and Boom) and Execution, another new hardcore d-beat band with usual suspects in it.
If you like some kind of melody in your punk, relax and listen to Videodrome‘s vintage synth-punk tunes, Solid Lines is a catchy punk-rock (people from Shock and Blank Slate) and L’Inter du Milieu with their postpunk/oi sound (folks from Shock and Execution), the last two are new bands I have never heard but there you go.
And finally, if you are more into the metal side of hardcore punk, go check Angoisse (blackened crust with members of Aguirre), Putrefiance (old-school raw death-metal with guys from Fraude, Audiocum, and Lucido) and of course Monarch, a long-running doom-drone outfit that you’ve probably heard about already.
Though technically not from Bordeaux but from Périgueux (close enough in the Southwest of France), Blank Slate play highly effective and energetic, snotty old-school USHC and their guitar player is responsible for a quality DIY hardcore punk label called No Glory Records.
In terms of gig collective, let’s mention Mankind, who have been putting on punk shows in Bordeaux for a while now, mostly in venues such as the Void and the Novo Local.
Toulouse is another major city in the French punk landscape, and if you suck at geography like me, let’s say it’s not far from Spain and that’s it’s said to be “The pink city” (never really understood why but there it is).
Let’s start with BooM, a mad crusty fastcore band, the primitive way (with a former member of the almighty Tekken) whose split with Ersatz comes highly recommended. If you’re into really subtle music, Vomi Noir and their manic splatter goregrind sound (member of Pulmonary Fibrosis, which makes sense), Cop Porn and their rough take on Nasum-like grindcore and Mortsure, a crust punk duo with a drum machine, will all delight you.
Fortunately, Toulouse is not all screams and grunts from outer grave: Woodwork is a modern political hardcore band with a 90s metallic edge (and members of Chestnut Road, Nightwatchers and A Bridge To Many).
Okay, Nightwatchers plays supercatchy and dark political punk-rock and have a new LP out. OmbreS is a queer minimal wave punk duo.
Les Pavillons Sauvages is Toulouse’s main hardcore punk venue and a long-running squat if you are in the area and the still very much active DIY anarchopunk label Stonehenge Records is also operating from Toulouse.
Finally, let’s mention some bands from the wider Toulouse area.
If you’re not familiar with Auch, let’s say that it can be considered as the birthplace of crust in France with cracking historical bands such as Enola Gay or Disbeer. It looks like they still have some sweet crusty bands going for them with Death Büring (gruff metallic cavemen crust) and Krötal (raw d-beat hardcore). Old punx never die, right?
In Villefranche-de-Rouergue (North of Toulouse) two ex-members of Seasick6 and Ultradémon started an eerie post-punk project called FUTUR.s MORT.s that is pretty morose indeed and the local venue, a self-managed bar called Les Hauts Parleurs, is busy booking all kind of shows.
Let’s now hit France’s Provence, in the South-East. There are a couple of cool bands in Montpellier, my favourite being Morbid Scum, a lovely stench metal crust band (not exactly a popular genre in France) that formed recently and already have a demo, while if you crave for beefy and thrashy hardcore punk, All Borders Kill come recommended.
The major city in the South is of course Marseille, the second most populated place in France, a place that has become very dynamic for the past ten years or so with many squats, collectives and gigs.
In terms of bands, here is what emerged: La Flingue (highly catchy old-school ’77 garage punk with members of The Aggravation and Sunsick); Holy Fröst (raw and dark hardcore d-beat); xINQUISITIONx (fastcore… who would have guessed?); La Chasse (occult-sounding dark drone/sludge); Canine, political screamo/emo; Yarostan is a political post-hardcore/screamo band that released a killer album recently, and Apes Brigade play demented and noisy political hardcore punk. I’m sure there are more but I just don’t know them.
A lot of gigs take place at La Salle Gueule, an independent rock club, and at La Machine à Coudre and Le Molotov.
Our eastern move towards the Alpine region takes us to another busy area for punk music with France’s third city, Lyon, renowned for its brand of usually tuneful punk-rock as Faux Départ, a band playing catchy and nervous punk-rock with singalongs, and Dernier Futur with a more traditional French punk sound illustrates.
A significant part of the indie/emo/garage influences typical for Lyonnaise bands come from the Daïtro / 12XU / Baton Rouge connection and labels run by the people involved in these bands, such as Purepainsugar and Echo Canyon. If you like that type of music, from Lyon came the melodic racket SPORT, who recently disbanded, and Monplaisir in the veins of Hot Snakes or Dinosaur JR.
Litige and Ursa are two all-female punk bands, the first going for a rather typical Lyon sound full of catchy grungy punk-rock tunes while the other (with members of Robotnicka and Litige) is more a retrofuturist energetic synth-driven postpunk act.
Going in an even poppier direction, Tole Froide, also an all-girl band, have a low-fi synth pop punk sound with a bittersweet vibe. Quite original.
Lyon is not all melodies though and you also have technical grindcore fanatics with Warfuck, fast death/grind freaks in the guise of Hordür and insanely fast fastcore (that’s really fucking fast) with Lovgun.
Finally, let’s not forget Mondragon who recently reformed and play anarchist free hardcore punk that blends a lot of different genres with passion.
Lyon has a great infoshop called La Luttine, if you want to hang out and browse through records and zines while having a chat, and all sorts of alternative gigs still take place at Grrrnd Zero.
Nearby Lyon lies Saint-Etienne, a smaller and more working-class town with a long tradition of good taste that makes it one of France’s punk hotspots.
Let’s start with Saint-Etienne’s new hardcore heroes Deletär, who surprisingly play Totalitär and Skitkids-influenced punk music (members of Vomit for Breakfast and tons of others) and have an EP out.
State Poison (with Deletär’s guitar player on the drums) are technically still active and will kick your ass if you are into noisy Japanese-styled hardcore punk (and why wouldn’t you be into that?), while Copcake will definitely be your thing if you need fast and punishing hardcore punk with female vocals (with members of Atomic Tango among others) and Death Reign will do the trick if you are looking for hard-hitting and moody dual vocal crust (some members live in Grenoble).
Saint-Etienne is not deprived of tunes though and bands like Ratel (melodic hardcore punk), Negative Runners (powerpop punk) and the old-timers Zero Gain (catchy old-school punk-rock with ex members of Protex Blue) can attest to that.
Let’s not forget Pervers et Truand, a band that is tough to describe (sludge grunge punk with spoken words?) but good and original, and of course Zone Infinie—though members are now spread out between Saint-Etienne, Lyon and Paris—whose take on traditional gloomy working-class French punk-rock has been highly successful.
In terms of logistics, La France Pue is a punk collective, going for the past 20 years, that puts on many gigs, has its own radio show on Radio Dio and its own distro that carries the productions of two local record labels, Tranzophobia and Kid Rock. A well-oiled machine.
As far as venues go, Saint-Etienne is equipped with La Gueule Noire, a self-run social center hosting many political activities, worskshops and gigs, Ursa Minor, a former factory that has its own massive gig and screenprinting space and Le 17, a small space that hosts concerts, readings and an infoshop.
Finally, Sauf Imprévu is a collective running rehearsal and recording rooms for all bands of the area.
Located in the Alps, Grenoble is another major dynamic punk town of the area that has a vibrant scene with radical politics.
Band-wise, you’ve got: Alarm, a three-piece playing energetic dark punk-rock with female vocals; Ascidie (with Traitre’s singer), a raw and crusty anarcho d-beat band; Grossel (members also living in Besançon and Remiremont) do the grinding mincecore thing; Rip It Up! who are into tuneful hardcore; Satan, evil punx sacrificing fast and harsh noisy grinding black metal; Taulard, a low-fi synthpunk wave band that is quite unique; Profs de Skids, an impressive surf punk act; and of course Chicken’s Call, formed in 1998 and still delivering catchy political punk music for the kids.
As far as I know the great squat Roxy Cooper is still standing and hosting political activities and various shows.
Keeping to the East of the country but going North is Besançon, a town renowned for its crust/grind bands, like Human Compost, who, I believe, are inactive now but were delivering the goods in the shape of beefy metal crust until recently.
Some members went on to form Potence, a screamo-influenced dark and intense neocrust band (also with folks from Geraniüm and Black Code), and Vlaar, a heavy and epic melodic crust band with gruff vocals. Nice.
Comprising members of Lyon’s Baton Rouge and Besançon’s The Irradiates, Hawaii Samurai, and Whoresntaion, come Contr
If you need grindcore in your life, then Whoresnation will be your cup of lager as they rate among the best slices of utter grinding madness in the country, technically perfect but still wild as fuck. Vlaar’s guitar player also has a label called Tanker Records and runs a recording studio, Disvlar Studio. Also in the area, Svoboda Records is a sweet crust/d-beat/hardcore label as well as a massive distro.
In Dijon, beside top notch mustard, you will find the long-running anarcho crust punk band 20 Minutes de Chaos as well as Maloka, a collective running a label and a distro as well as putting on a lot of gigs in the city’s legendary venue, Les Tanneries, a former squat now turned into a social center.
In Dijon, there are also the ska-tinged anarcho-punk legends Psycho Squatt, who were originally active between 1986-1989 (released the incredible double 7″ Liberté Précarité Fraternité in 1989) but reunited in 2010. Since coming back, they have a split with Les Fossoyeurs Septik and a new record called Tant de crises. Nice stuff.
Going North again, in the Vosges region, and sadly recently split up, were the mighty Lust For Death, France’s prime crust band who were amazing at the Bolt-Throwerish-stenchcore game (do check the split with Ruinas from Argentina). Sharing members with LFD are Doomsisters, a demented crust/grind/sludge act that is an impressive and fun sight live, and apparently there is a brand new crust band in the area called Sinistra as well.
The long-running label and distro (and formerly a fanzine as well) Déviance is there to support the scene and promote noisy anarcho hardcore punk through a large array of lovely releases while Crustatombe is a dynamic gig collective in the area as well as a label.
Strasbourg / Lorraine / Nancy / Metz
Let’s now head to the North-East of France, namely Alsace, not far from Germany, where they love dark screaming hardcore bands. Like Geraniüm, a Strasbourg-based band playing since 2009 and very good at the blackened neocrust thing as their recent LP shows. Intense stuff.
From Strasbourg as well, LMDA play dark and raspy powerviolence like it’s 2002 again and Mental Distress deliver fast, 90s-fueled political fastcore and will have a new LP soon.
In Lorraine, another region in the East, hardcore can be as dark as punishing, like Affres and their desolate and intense blackened crust demonstrates, or indeed as fast, like the old-school powerviolence band Pessimists from Nancy.
Garrrot, a free noisy hardcore duo are hard to define but a great live band and although Vehemence recently split up, they are worth mentioning here if someone’s looking for epic and melodic anarcho-crust sound (the members were spread out between Nancy, Marseille and the Alps).
In nearby Metz, a female duo called Avale plays amazing hypnotic tribal post-punk, while Strong As Ten still play thrashing fastcore since the early 2000s and are still incredible live. 0% posers, 100% bandana.
Orléans / Clermont-Ferrand / Tulle / Limoges
I have skipped the centre of the country and that’s not really fair, is it? So there we go!
In Orléans—South of Paris—you will find Boris Viande, a furious grinding fastcore band with silly lyrics, and Speed Jesus, a modern, heavy and fast hardcore act. More to the South, not so far from Lyon actually, in Clermont-Ferrand, the Raymond Bar is a self-managed DIY bar that has been hosting hardcore punk gigs for years and that you should think of if you tour in France one day.
In Tulle, a bit to the South-West, lives a brilliant post-punk band, Hinin, that is both eerie-sounding, bleak and very urban. Ace stuff.
Finally, in Limoges, the anarcho-punk veterans Attentat Sonore are still active after more than 30 years. There is a new band called Reagan Burger who endeavours to play old-school US hardcore, not unlike MDC or something.
That’s it, then!
Thanks a lot, dear reader, for making it to the last lines, as this Punk Tour de France quickly turned into a genuine tour-de-force. As mentioned at the start, this scene report is not exhaustive so don’t be too upset if your band does not appear in it, maybe I am just unaware of its existence (or really dislike it), so feel free to add on to the report in the comment section or better yet, do your own report!
I would like to thank Manu Litovsk for the tremendous help on the Brittany section (another, 100% Brittany scene report written by Manu is coming on DIY Conspiracy soon!), Jesse for Bordeaux, Befa for Saint-Etienne, Alex for Lyon, Philippe for Toulouse and Trash Manu for the fastcore/grind stuff. Some edits and additions have been done by Mitko of DIY Conspiracy.
Special thanks to Djoe (@joandastarac) for the amazing pictures that make everyone look much better than they actually do in real life. Merci les gars!
Up the punx!